COAL KILLS – The Screen Print Process

Project Description

This is some brief insight into the process of a four color screen print which was rather ambitious considering it was my very first print. There was several design revisions and overall concept changes but this is a short outline of how this process was executed from start to finish.


Coming from the Black Mesa region of the Navajo Reservation, I spent quite a bit of time thinking about how to communicate our relationship with coal from a cultural stand point. Our reservation was once surrounded by seven coal fired plants but through our collective familial efforts that number is now down to five. This process attempted to keep the message free of the typical unchallenging non-profit branding language and to also be culturally considerate to avoid using death or its imagery which proved to be quite a task. These challenges in telling our story are a direct reflection of our lived experiences with colonialism on top of the other 4 colors involved in telling this particular story on paper. The words and various iterations in the development of font this piece reflect those intentions.


Even with solar as a better option for Arizona, coal from the Navajo reservation is still mined and burned as a source for electricity. Switching to solar isn’t much of a solution if we as Diné aren’t challenging capitalism, our consumption or the oppression we replicate on other Indigenous communities mining the minerals needed for our solar panels. However we are born into the process to provide electricity and power progress in Arizona, Nevada, and southern California. More than 30% of our people do not have electricity, running water or most other First World comforts. Think about the generations of our people who have been made to suffer the next time you watch a Hollywood blockbuster or visit the pretty lights of Las Vegas. It is us – the Diné of Black Mesa.


The overall design required recalling countless days as a child accompanying my grandmother to shear sheep, prepare wool and gather plants to dye in order to weave huge intricate rugs to support our family as a single mother. Her designs were one of the inspirations for the border which tied the overall imagery together. Unlike colonial corporations, our people knew to respect the land and leave coal and its properties in the Earth so therefor, I wanted to visually represent that protection. The font was also a first attempt and being able to incorporate the official symbol for mountain top removal within the letter “A” and the handholding the pick within the letter “S” were the final touches of this piece. These concepts, my people and my culture were passed onto me from my family and used as the foundation for developing this print. This was my first attempt at screen printing and bringing our personal story to life. 


Ahéheé – Thank you for reading.


Project Details

Tags: Black Mesa, Design, Environment, Human Rights, Screen Printing

Back to Top